LANSING | Village government has expanded the duties of the official chaplain for the Fire and Police departments to include working for the spiritual needs of all municipal employees.
The Village Board on Tuesday voted 6-0 in favor of naming the Rev. William McFarlane, who has been pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Parish since 2010, as the official chaplain of Lansing government.
For the past three years until this summer, Ildefonso Torres, of the New Hope Church, served as the Fire Department chaplain, and served the Police Department when needed there.
But Torres retired from his pastoral duties, while also resigning his chaplain post. That led Village President Norm Abbott to spend the summer considering a new chaplain for the public safety agencies.
Abbott noted that McFarlane is his personal pastor, as he is a member of the St. Ann’s congregation. But he says it was the Fire and Police department leadership that asked for McFarlane, citing the fact that McFarlane has delivered the “blue” Mass in recent years that pays tribute to public safety workers.
For McFarlane, the idea of being linked to police officers and firefighters is not a stretch. His father was a Chicago police lieutenant, he has a sister who was a Chicago police officer, an uncle who was a Chicago firefighter and an aunt who was hired by the Chicago Fire Department at age 51.
McFarlane recalls as a kid in the 1970s his uncle would pick him up on a firetruck and would have him spend time in the fire stations of Chicago.
“You can’t do that anymore,” he said.
He also noted that before entering the seminary, he worked as a police dispatcher in Chicago for a few months.
“I realized this was not what I wanted to do with my life, and that I was headed in a different direction,” McFarlane said.
But while the Fire and Police departments will consume much of McFarlane’s municipal duties, Village Administrator J. Wynsma said McFarlane's role will be expanded to make the chaplain available to any village employee who feels the need to use his services. McFarlane's position with the village is voluntary.
Wynsma said McFarlane will offer advice and counseling to all employees who might be involved in a potentially traumatic situation. It also will be McFarlane who will notify family members in instances where a village employee is injured, and also will visit those employees at the hospital.
“He has a wonderful demeanor, he is disarming, which will make him perfect for dealing with crisis situations,” Wynsma said of McFarlane. “I’m excited about the services he will be providing us.”